The Economic Community of West African Female Parliament Association (ECOFEPA) held their first town hall meeting on Friday, November 24th at the ECOWAS Parliament, the International Conference Center in Abuja. The topic of the discussion was on boosting women’s participation in politics.
The ECOFEPA members shared their experiences in politics, the challenges they faced in their careers, as well as advice and motivation for aspiring young women that have an interest in politics and leadership roles in their communities.
The ECOFEPA panel consisted of eight members which include Hon. Aminata Toungara, 2nd Deputy Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Aissata Daffe, 1st Vic President of ECOFEPA, Hon. Camera Pinto, 2nd Vice President/ECOFEPA, Hon. Fatimata Niambali, the Secretary-General/ECOFEPA, Hon.Lynda Ikpeazu, the Treasurer/ECOFEPA, Hon.Fatoumata Njal, Young Parliament/ECOFEPA Member, Hon. Mabinty Fatimata Funna, Young Parliament/ECOFEPA Member, and Hon. Adjaratou Traore, Young Parliament/ECOFEPA Member.
The panel shared their advice to the women in attendance. I have some of their words of advice and insight below for women interested in leadership positions.
Why Should One Enter into Politics?
“If you don’t embrace politics. It will embrace you” – Hon. Fatoumata Njal
Hon. Aissata Daffe started as a Unionist. She has a Ph.D. in Chemistry as she pursued her higher education in Germany. She said that people did not understand the connection but she joined politics out of conviction and she rose to the ranks.
The Hon. Mabinty Fatimata Funna said that she did not expect to get into politics. Though her late father was a Politician, it was not the life she would have sought for herself. However, she was led to it and she does not regret being in politics. Due to her efforts, she has educated more than 5,000 girls in Sierra Leone.
Funna emphasized that as she was starting out, she noticed that most of the support that she received were from men. She said this issue needs to be rectified. She said that women at the top need to look out for the younger ones because it will go a long way in promoting leadership in young girls.
Hon. Aissata Daffe also said that in most offices and women groups, she finds that it is managed by men and there needs to be more encouragement for the young women to enter politics.
What are the Characteristics Needed to Thrive in Leadership?
The women discussed traits that have enabled them to thrive such as being courageous, persistent, humble and respectful.
The Hon. Aissata Daffe said that humility goes a long way. She said it’s good to have a teachable spirit. That sometimes you have to pretend that you don’t know so that others can see you are willing to learn. She mentioned that it’s essential to be respectful and courteous with the words you use. She also added that appearance matters. It matters to show up in a decent manner.
Other words of advice were to know when to bring yourself down to a certain level. The members of the panel stressed that it’s important that you do not appear as though you don’t want to learn. They also emphasized that understanding human behavior matters. They said that how you treat and approach others determines how they will address you.
What are your thoughts on the advice that the members of ECOFEPA panel offered?